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How It All Started From A Few Angels!

One revelation is despite their popularity today, as contemporary art goes, the Willow Tree figurines range is a mere ‘baby’ among collectables. The line will certainly be around for years and already there are retailers offering earlier and rarer discontinued (“retired”) pieces. This page explains the artistic credentials of their creator artist Susan Lordi, the inspiration behind the line and the birth of the figurines in the year 200. By the time you have read this, you will have the history, development and understanding of pieces in development to fully grasp what made the figurines a firm favourite.

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Susan Lordi qualified with a Masters of Fine arts and Textile Design and is known for her international exhibitors of art using textiles as well as her Willow Tree range. Susan has a love affair with textiles that has lead to recognition on the international art stage. Her artist’s studio is based in Kansas City, in Missouri USA and her reputation has travelled, with her textile art featured in books of fine art. Susan described the move into sculpting as inspirational to work in three dimensions, and reflects on how her art studies over the years would always have figures doodled between the notes from the lectures. . With an inspired artist at the helm, the figurines began to take on a life of their own from the world around her.

Susan has described the various influences that move her to fashion each piece as including dance, nature and her strong relationships with her family and her friends. Her ultimate goal with every single piece is to create a work of emotion which she has paradoxically found a channel for in creating the expressionless faces of the figurines. She gives credit to her observation of dolls created for Amish children by their mothers as highly influential. For religious reasons, those dolls were created without facial features yet Susan saw in them a simple channel for emotional expression from mother to child. From her years of study and gathering artistic strength from those experiences of strong human sentiment, Susan launched her first very small range of figurines in 2000.

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The original products very simply featured fifteen angels, a single ‘regular’ figurine and nativity items, launched in January 2000. The products were accompanied by a Sentiment Card capturing the emotional inspiration behind them. Each product was officially ‘discontinued’ the following year as they were replaced by newer figurines which began featuring family relationships, such as the ‘father and Daughter’ piece. Today, from its humble beginnings, the range stands at over 300 figurines, capturing family relationships, aspects of childhood, sentiments for special occasions, Christmas sentiments and an ever growing  line  of angel figurines.

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In response to consumer demand, some of the figurines have been specially adapted for weddings, such as the ‘Promise’ wedding cake topper figurine featuring a couple in a moving embrace. There are also figurines from a greater variety of ethnic backgrounds in the making again to reflect customer feedback showing a need for greater range.  The artistic input of a long established fine artist, influenced by movement, nature and human relationships has propelled the brand from less than thirty pieces to over 300 with customers asking for specific desired designs. If you have only ever seen a couple of pieces, or have not come across the brand at all, this can give you the full history, development and future collections for this highly collectable figurines  line.

By Joanne Godfrey